It’s undeniable that teams are always going to be buffeted by the peaks and troughs of workload. At Spoke, we know that especially for small teams, the peaks come more often than the troughs (we’re a small team too).

For small teams, the problem of busyness is as much the feeling as it is the number of things on our plates. There’s a mismatch between the things we’d like to do (or feel we ought to do) and a smaller quantity of things we’re capable of doing in the available time.

Somewhat counter-intuitively, making any effort to be less ‘busy’ can often reap rewards in efficiency and getting things done. Here are our tips:

Accept reality and slow down

The last thing we want to hear, when we’re drowning in to-dos, is slow down. However, small teams often have enough autonomy to choose some things to ‘deliberately neglect’. Reject some meetings and leave some emails a little longer to resolve themselves - then focus on what’s really important.

Manage your internal client

Easy to say and less easy to follow-through but setting expectations too high is the sure way not to meet them. Lawyers are high achievers and it’s very tempting for us to unconsciously set a high bar in all we do, no matter how important it is. We get judged on the promises we make, so need to stop and decide if they are necessary or realistic.

Remember Hofstadter’s Law

Hofstatder’s Law says that complex tasks will always take longer than you think. It’s crucial for small teams to build this into their planning because they have fewer outlets to avoid the peaks.

Don’t use the ‘B’ word

An easy (and learned) response to “How are you?” is “Busy!”. Forbes magazine says that instead of this response to show just how much we have to do, we should focus on the successes (and those of our teams) that are making us feel busy. By talking about busyness less, we’ll feel less busy.

Avoid pre-crastination

Pre-crastination is the hurry to cross something off our list without thinking it through. Make sure you do the important things first and encourage your team to do the same. Email far too often tempts us to do the opposite; often that thing you’re reacting to would resolve itself if it were left.

Last, this is not just about our work life but about leisure time too. Multi-tasking busyness, even outside work, robs our day of distinct phases. When great work’s been done, we should feel free to label our leisure time as such and encourage our teams to do the same.